Botany Careers

Botanist Interview

The Phytophactor is a botanist that works at a public university. He runs a botany blog called The Phytophactor ( to help spread the word about plants. He was nice enough to conduct a brief interview about his job.

What’s your educational and employment background?

I have a PhD & MS from a midwestern university, and a BA from up east state college.

Since 1970 I’ve earned my living in higher education. I’ve been at my present institution, a public university here in Lincolnland since 1978.

Why did you choose your career?

I liked plants and suddenly discovered you could make a living learning about them and teaching about them.

Where do you work?

A public university in Lincolnland.

What do you like about your job?

It’s always changing; you get to pursue things of interest; you get to excite students (some of them anyway).

What do you dislike about your job?

The bureaucracy and state fiats are onerous; intellectually lazy people.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Finding time to do everything I’d like to do.

What type of research or projects do you work on?

I work on the biology of flowers, their development, their pollination; tropical plants; hemiparasitic plants; rainforest and prairies.

What other types of research are you interested in?

I read a great deal about systematic and evolutionary plant research especially paleobotany.

Do you have any advice for people interested in the science of botany?

Yes, it’s a great field, filled with interesting people.

Tell me about a day in the life of you.

A typical day begins by checking email and drinking a coffee. Next I prepare for any classes I have that day. I average 2 hours of class a day. Labs take longer to prepare for, set up and cleanup. Next I check and see what things need to be done: research activities, deadlines, writing projects, meetings with students. Around midday I check my email again to see if anything needs immediate attention. I read science news and blogs while eating lunch. Classes and working on various things occupy the afternoon. In the evening I generally will read a chapter in some popular book on science, botany, religion, philosophy, cosmology, paleontology. If the season allows I’ll spend an hour or two in my garden and yard.

What inspired you to start your blog?

It seemed like a good way to engage in outreach, and since lots of people are interested in gardening jobs (or gardening in general), I frequently use that as a hook to teach about botany. Blogs are also a good way to blow off steam and retain your sanity. Since my blog is a stand alone blog it’s traffic is modest, but continues to grow. The next challenge will be figuring out what to do with all the old blogs that people keep accessing.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Job prospects, particularly federal civil service, for botany seem quite good. And they often want people who know the basics, especially taxonomy and identification skills.

Do you have a personal or research website?

Yes. At least my real life counterpart does.

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